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Missoula County Attorney Proposes a Lawsuit Against the U.S. Department of Justice [AUDIO]

Wearied over a continuing threat by the U.S. Department of Justice to take action against the Missoula County Attorney’s office, Fred Van Valkenburg is proposing taking the U.S. government to court.

Van Valkenburg said the U.S. Attorney for the State of Montana Michael Cotter hand-delivered a proposal about three weeks ago from the Department of Justice that included a draft agreement for the county attorney’s office to hire investigators and a compliance officer at the county’s expense, which could come to nearly $150,000 per year, the cost to be borne by taxpayers.The proposal is identical to ones already agreed to by the city of Missoula and the University of Montana.

“The proposal failed to address the legal concerns that I have, that the Department of Justice does not have the authority to either investigate or sue the county attorney’s office over their alleged claims,” Van Valkenburg said. “Finally, the proposal did not include any new information whatsoever as to any specific allegations they were making that we had somehow violated someone’s constitutional rights.”

Van Valkenburg said it’s time to go on the offense and take the Department of Justice to court.

“I told the county commissioners that the most appropriate way to deal with this thing was to pursue a declaratory judgment action in which we went to court against the Department of Justice and essentially asked a federal judge to rule whether the department has any authority to conduct this investigation,” Van Valkenburg said. “I thought the commissioners were largely supportive of the idea, but they thought it was premature to take any action. They want me to write a letter to Cotter telling him that this proposal was not acceptable, and I agreed. Following that, we could discuss the possibility of them authorizing the expenditure of monies to employ an attorney to represent us in litigation with the Department of Justice.”

In the letter, Van Valkenburg will inform Cotter and the Department of Justice that his office has already complied with many of the demands made in the past.

“I will set out in the letter what we’re doing and how well it’s working,” Van Valkenburg said. “People are generally happy with the way we’re conducting business in our office and there’s no real reason for the feds to try to impose a solution on this community that’s unnecessary, then to give them some time to either back off, or file their lawsuit.”

Van Valkenburg has been consistent in his continued defiance of the Department of Justice since their initial action in Missoula in May of 2012.

Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg

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